Christian Interfaith Reference Group (CIRG)


As Christians, we consider as allies Canadians of different faiths – or of no faith – who also sincerely seek truth, beauty, and goodness. … As Christians, we do not seek religious freedom that is denied to others. Rather, we support a pluralistic society, open to all.

About the Christian Interfaith Reference Group

Established by The Canadian Council of Churches’ Governing Board in 2008, the Christian Interfaith Reference Group (CIRG) brings together CCC member churches to reflect ecumenically on issues of religious diversity and to encourage and resource ecumenical engagement with various religions, faiths, and spiritualties.

CIRG is a table for information-sharing, education, theological reflection, and relationship-building. Guiding principles include the call to educate, inform and resource CCC member churches and other bodies on interfaith matters, to work towards greater interfaith understanding and collaboration, and to do this work ecumenically as much as possible.

Our foundational work is in-house engagement among CCC member churches focusing on interfaith matters. CIRG also connects with interfaith partners to build relationships and establish foundations for addressing common concerns.

Historically, CCC / CIRG relate with several national and international interfaith bodies, including Canadian Interfaith Conversation, Canadian Christian-Jewish Consultation, National Muslim-Christian Liaison Committee, Parliament of the World’s Religions and Religions for Peace.

Current Program Priorities (2021-24)

As Christian communities and Christian interfaith leaders in Canada, we have historic responsibilities for building and expanding dialogue and right relationships with Indigenous communities and partners. CIRG members identified the following key commitments and goals for this triennial priority. As interfaith leaders in our churches, we want to honour and live into these commitments, in consultation and partnership with Indigenous leaders.
  • The CCC member churches made this covenant commitment in their 2014 Expression of Reconciliation at the TRC: “to respect the right and freedom of Indigenous communities to practise traditional spirituality and teachings.”
  • TRC Call to Action No 60 – particularly its emphasis on the need to respect Indigenous spiritualities in their own right, and to educate Christian leaders about the history of our violence against traditional spiritualities and our responsibility to prevent spiritual violence.
  • The need to deepen our knowledge of Indigenous spiritualities in their variety, uniqueness, and complexity; to listen to and learn from Indigenous leaders, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers; to build relationships with Indigenous partners within and beyond the Christian churches; and – in and through this process – to ask where our Creator is leading us and what our next steps on this journey together might be.
CIRG members will pursue this work through consultations with Indigenous Christian leaders from the CCC member churches; through receiving teachings from traditional Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers; and through participating in learning sessions on spiritual violence and diverse Indigenous spiritualities in Canada. When engaging in these listening, learning, and relationship-building opportunities, CIRG members will pay particular attention to how the sin of racism impacts our relationships with the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. We are also discerning possibilities for future connections and dialogue with traditional Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers. One potential outcome of this work might be a reflective report, which will share our triennial journey and learnings with the Council’s member churches.

Building on local and national connections between Christians and Muslims in Canada, CIRG helps member churches to deepen mutual understanding and positive relationships with Muslim neighbours and to counter anti-Muslim sentiments.

In partnership with the National Muslim-Christian Liaison Committee, CIRG is developing a dedicated online resource (website), Hand in Hand: Connecting Christians and Muslims in Canada. This website will be an interactive tool and a networking ‘hub’ for local communities and individuals wishing to begin or deepen Christian-Muslim dialogue or relationships in their contexts. This work is supported by a generous grant from The Olive Tree Foundation.

We invite you to participate in this project via Mapping Diversity online survey.

CIRG supports and resources an open, honest, and representative consultation among the CCC member churches to gain greater understanding of their theological, practical, and spiritual approaches to Christian-Jewish dialogue and relations. Through this process of ecumenical learning and reflection, we discern ways forward for dialoging and working with our Jewish neighbours, both as individual churches and as a Council. CIRG supports this work by producing resources for local Christian-Jewish engagement and by facilitating internal reflection among the Council’s Governing Board members, particularly in the context of the Canadian Christian-Jewish Consultation’s recent suspension.

Recent Resources Developed by CIRG

Table with Passover seder and French lavendar

Resource: Holy Day Greetings to Our Jewish Neighbours (2021)

As a person of faith, are you interested in building relationships with Jewish neighbours? If so, this idea sheet may help you take a simple step: greeting your Jewish neighbours during the significant seasons of the Jewish calendar, particularly at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Pesach (Passover), and Hanukkah.

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Statement on Religious Freedom (2016)

This Statement on Religious Freedom is the result of a request from the CCC Governing Board that CIRG develop a statement in response to the Charter of Values debate in the province of Quebec. The Council’s member churches were invited to share their input for such a statement. However, before this statement was finalized, the immediate issues have changed and continue to evolve. As a result, the broader intention behind this CIRG statement is that it may be used in response to any issue that challenges religious freedom.

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church in downtown toronto

A Guide for Participation in Public Events Involving More than One Religious or Spiritual Tradition (2020)

In Canadian public life, there are significant events that can call upon the services of our diverse religious and spiritual leaders. These may be occasions of public celebration – locally, nationally, or internationally – or occasions of public mourning. There may be other occasions where the public is served by having their religious and spiritual leaders offering hospitality, inclusion and voice with a view to expressing sacred and significant experiences, which, among other aims, can provide a collective sense of healing and togetherness in moments of crisis. Developed by CIRG and adopted as a statement of the Council, this resource provides some suggestions for the planning and conducting of such public events whereby a variety of religious and spiritual leaders are invited to offer an official role. Acknowledging the religious diversity of our country and the importance and value of shared leadership, we wish to underscore that these reflections are coming forward from the Christian tradition and would need to be complemented by the perspectives of other religious and spiritual traditions.

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Considerations for Implementing the CCC “Guide for Participation in Public Events Involving More than One Religious or Spiritual Tradition” (2021)

This resource is intended to supplement The Canadian Council of Churches’ Guide for Participation in Public Events Involving More than One Religious or Spiritual Tradition. Recognizing that each community differs in the needs, experiences, and goals when organizing or participating in shared ceremonies or events, CIRG members offer some considerations, lessons learned, and practical ideas for planning public interreligious events.

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Historical Highlights

The interfaith work of CCC member churches is guided by our mission to respond to Christ’s call for unity and peace, seek truth with affection for diversity, and act in love through prayer and dialogue. We cherish Canadian multicultural and multi-religious context and strive to know and work with our diverse neighbours.

Our member churches have unique lived experiences of interfaith dialogue, relationships, and common action. CIRG’s history and current work are rooted in these experiences. A significant moment in CIRG history – indeed, our very beginning – was a 2007 research project to survey the interfaith experiences and potential of CCC member churches. Through interviews with leaders in 20 member churches, we learned about each church’s interfaith engagements, practices, hopes and challenges. This journey became a fascinating pilgrimage, with candid responses reflecting a spectrum of involvement and positions.

The results of this research project were analysed and presented in our resource Who Is My Neighbour? As CIRG, we continue to discern how we might answer the calls, challenges, and recommendations expressed by our member churches. Our interfaith work and life has changed and grown since this resource had been published. Yet, in some crucial aspects, we continue walking together with one another – and with our neighbours from various religious, faith and spiritual traditions – along the paths discerned in this foundational piece of internal learning and reflection. We invite you to share this journey.

CIRG Members

  • Dr. Brian Butcher – Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • Lt. Col. Jim Champ – The Salvation Army
  • Rev. Dr. Paul Dekar – Religious Society of Friends (Quakers); CIRG co-chair
  • Rev. Fred Demaray – Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec
  • Dr Usha George – Mar Thoma Church
  • Rev. Roshni Jayawardena – Anglican Church of Canada; CIRG co-chair
  • Rev. Dr. Andrew Johnston – Presbyterian Church in Canada
  • Byron Rempel-Burkholder – Mennonite Church Canada
  • Rev. Greg Sinclair – Christian Reformed Church in North America
  • Rev. Rob Wiesner – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
  • Sonya Wu-Winter – United Church of Canada

Ex Officio

  • Rev. Amanda Currie – CCC Vice-President liaison to CIRG
  • Lori Ransom – CCC Executive Committee liaison for Indigenous Spiritualities priority
  • Jessica Stevenson – CCC Youth Governing Board member
  • Maria Simakova – Program Coordinator, Interfaith Relations

Last updated: August 2023

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